Football fans in western New York remember well the 4 straight Super Bowl trips made by the Buffalo Bills and the signs fans made, proclaiming “We’re Back!” Knighthawks fans might want to dig out those signs from the basement and hold ‘em high because they’ll work well for the return of Gary Gait. That’s right, the 43-year-old Gait and the team announced late Thursday that the forward will be back for an incredible 18th National Lacrosse League season. “You walk away, but when a team asks you to play, you come back for as long as you can,” he told Rochester’s Democrat and Chronicle. “I feel great. When I’m healthy, I can contribute.”
Gait is the first to admit he doesn’t run like he used to and in today’s game, he doesn’t have to. But with 69 points (38 goals, 31 assists) in 22 games over 2 seasons for the Birds, dude can still bury shots. Beyond that, he can be a leader and nurture the younger talent in Jarrett Davis and Cody Jamieson. Especially as the team tries to forge an offensive identity as Jordan Hall (hernia surgery) recovers, Shawn Williams and Shawn Evans being on the physically unable to perform list, and John Grant Jr. plying his trade in Colorado.
Expectations are high in Rochester for 2011, as they always are. But this season’s a bit different after the trade of Junior. Jamieson, fairly or not, is being tabbed the franchise savior, and he does have the skill to carry a team. But he’s also got the smarts to know he can do just as much damage by dumping the ball when he draws the double. The defense was boosted by the addition of Matt Vinc in cage and the transition game, while aged just a bit, still has the wheels to move the ball.
It’s been said before that the East Division playoff teams often comes down to a last-man-standing situation because they beat each other up so badly during the season. The 2011 season will be no different, especially with the re-emergence of the Toronto Rock. Will Gait help the Knighthawks weather the 2011 storm that is the East Division? Time will tell, of course, and that clock starts ticking in January.
Speaking of the Knighthawks, the team traded Dan Hardy and Ryan McClelland to the Philadelphia Wings on Thursday for a second-round draft pick in 2012. McClelland was Rochester’s 3rd draft pick in the first round, 10th overall … The Colorado Mammoth are trading sticks and helmets this weekend for brooms, paint brushes and elbow grease as they’ll help paint and clean the Denver Rescue Mission’s Lawrence Street Shelter on Saturday … Rush coach Derek Keenan is pleased with training camp so far, especially the play of the rooks. “Alex Hill showed a lot of talent and and our transition game and defensive game was outstanding,” he told EdmontonRush.com … The Minnesota Swarm announced April 16 as their night to help “Black Out Cancer,” with proceeds from the home game against the Philadelphia Wings to benefit the Randy Shaver Cancer Research and Community Fund … Hey Blazer fan. Interested in knowing who made the team’s dance squad for 2011? Click here … The final weekend of training camp means the defending champion Washington Stealth coaches will be facing some tough choices soon … Don’t forget to vote in our poll to determine who the 2011 NLL champ might be. Fans’ results will be included in our annual staff picks before the season opener.Chavez is an avid lacrosse player in Rochester and a journalist for the Democrat and Chronicle as well as a longtime Inside Lacrosse contributor. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or go to RochesterSports.com.
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